Slaying the Green Dragon:  Environmental Science Misinformation Linked to Religion

Chuck Doswell - 29 April 2011

RJ has invited me to offer my views on a topic that has recently caught his attention:  that is, an effort by a coalition between the religious right and the christian nationalist party (CNP - aka the GOP) to squash what they refer to as the Green Dragon.  The idea is that environmentalism, evolutionary science, and global climate change science (as embodied in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC) represent some sort of devil-inspired “liberal” cabal to both bankrupt corporate America and simultaneously to wage war on Christianity.  It seems that some Christians actually were embracing principles of environmentalism, including efforts to mitigate the impacts of global climate change.  Faith-based environmentalism was a specter the CNP fears, as its corporate sponsors would be inconvenienced by having to reduce their massive profits in what many corporations have characterized as draconian environmental policy changes.

Thus, we have the so-called “Cornwall Alliance” led by E. Calvin Beisner who “… asserts that God has placed all of nature at the disposal of humanity.”  This is the classical biblical notion known as dominionism:  that we humans have the god-given right to use or abuse the Earth to any extent we choose.  Dominionism has its roots in Genesis 1:26: 

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’

I suggest that our listeners might explore the Web for insights regarding this partnership between politicians and religious fanatics.  I’m not going to use my time to make you all aware of the dirty history of the Cornwall Alliance and its partners.  Rather, I want to comment on the attempt by the religious right to cast environmentalism as an opponent to religious faith.

This alliance is both figuratively, and arguably literally, a match made in heaven!  It links the authoritarian principles of religious faith with the most rapacious, cynical,  and callous political figures who are the beneficiaries of policies favoring corporate America.  George W. Bush was their perfect president, combining born-again fundamentalism with a profound fondness for oil money.  Both the fundamentalist religious zealots and the CEO’s ruining the American economy without apparent consequences share a common cause in condemning policies clearly associated with the so-called liberals.  It’s those freethinkers we need to smash, and the way to do it is to rouse the righteous in a jangling jihad against anyone who dares to callenge the ascendancy of the deity and the existing economic system.  By the way, that economic system actually is quite far from a truly “free” market.  No, this economy is about welfare for the rich, seemingly without concern for what crimes they might perpetrate on the rest of us. 

Freethinkers, in their tree-hugging and alarmist statements about global climate change, might interrupt the gravy train that flows out of the taxpayer’s pockets into corporate executive bank accounts. As Watergate’s “Deep Throat” (FBI assistant director, Mark Felt) in the movie All the President’s Men admonished:  “Follow the money.”  From CEO coffers, the cash flow enters the political arena on behalf of the CNPers, who not coincidentally, are big supporters of privileges associated with churches – notably, their tax-exempt status. 

As I see it, the sad part of the situation is that this effort to support global climate change denialism and eviscerate environmental protection has harnessed science’s uncertainties against the scientists.  Since science makes no absolute claims, CNP politicians can drag their feet over implementing any substantial “green” policies – that is, anything that would favor the environment.  They claim to want to see more compelling scientific results, but it’s just a stalling tactic.  This is a cynical manipulation by masters of obfuscating rhetoric to create doubts in the minds of the under-educated American public about the science that underlies environmentalism.  Scientists always operate under uncertainty and rarely, if ever, make absolute claims.  Scientists can be brushed aside by those whose biblical texts and political cynicism make them bloated with unsubstantiated certainty about their pseudo-scientific claims in opposition to the scientists.  They don’t hesitate to argue that they know, with biblical absolutism, what is best for America.  And the public seems inclined to believe them to a degree that leaves freethinkers astonished.  Freethinkers can ask embarrassing questions, which makes them a target!

David Barton (Founder and president of WallBuilders – an organization claiming to be "dedicated to presenting America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built." – a thinly-disguised fundamentalist christian organization) accuses scientists of ignoring anything that does not support their worldview and manipulating data to support it, while complaining that it is all a plot to increase government control and play God.  This is the most astounding case of the pot calling the kettle black I’ve ever seen!  It’s the religious right and their corporate partners who are manipulating the truth to support their worldview.  It’s they who claim to know absolute truth.  And yes, they seem to be acting as if they are implementing the will of their almighty deity.  They’re narcissistic to an extreme, and their rhetoric projects their very own flaws onto their opponents.

In a society dominated by christians, this collaboration between the religious right and their political representatives to link environmentalism with atheism is disturbing.  If we as Americans allow this to prevent implementing environmentalist policies, we’re going to deserve what happens to us as a consequence!